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Edited by Alberto Manguel.
Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press, 1990.
276pp., paper, $16.95.
ISBN 0-19-540761-X. CIP.

Subject Heading:
Ghost stories, Canadian (English).

Adult / Secondary

Reviewed by Joan McGrath.

Volume 18 Number 3
1990 May

Ghost stories have never really been an important feature of Canadian literature. They seem to flourish best in older cultures with shadowed histories stretching back into the mists of time, even though many Canadians have brought with them to the New World echoes of tales told round ancestral fires all around the globe.

That doesn't mean that there are no Canadian ghost stories, or even that there are no good ones. Collected in the present volume are some of the best of Canadian eerie tales, from those of the early French habitants to some that have come to Canada with recent arrivals. The collection includes twenty-six stories of widely varied length and "scare power." Some are truly haunting; others, like Dickens' "Fat Boy," merely "want to make your flesh creep" in a fairly cheerful way.

If one may be allowed a favourite among many good things, Margaret Atwood's "Death by Landscape" clings in the memory like a cocklebur. Stephen Leacock's "Buggam Grange: A Good Old Ghost Story" spoofs the genre with the author's usual geniality, and Robertson Davies' macabre "Dickens Digested," the story of a student too absorbed in his work who is finally absorbed by his work, combines a chuckle with a shiver.

Some of the other notable authors included are W.P. Kinsella, Farley Mowat, Jane Rule, Ethel Wilson and Tim Wynne-Jones. The earliest of the authors was born more than two hundred years ago, the latest as recently as 1952.

For the aficionado as well as for senior students of English literature.

Joan McGrath, Toronto Board of Education, Toronto, ON.
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